- Bruce Levine, Chicago baseball beat reporter
- 0 Shares
The Chicago Cubs did everything they could to talk Colin Kaepernick into playing baseball in 2009, but the then-University of Nevada quarterback had a different dream that he wasn't ready to relinquish.
Despite being drafted by the Cubs in the 43rd round of the '09 amateur draft, Kaepernick wanted to be an NFL quarterback. And as he prepares to lead the San Francisco 49ers into Super Bowl XLVII against the Baltimore Ravens, it's obvious he made the right choice.
Kaepernick was an all-state baseball player in California, a right-handed pitcher who reportedly had thrown his fastball over 90 mph on occasion. He passed on baseball scholarships to play football in college, yet the Cubs still saw enough.
"I looked at his arm action in a number of [football] games and talked to people who saw him play baseball in high school," Cubs crosschecker Sam Hughes said Wednesday. "The way he competed as the Reno quarterback and his athleticism led us to the belief he could be a good professional pitcher."
The Cubs had drafted another college football star when they took Notre Dame All-America receiver Jeff Samardzija in the fifth round of the 2006 draft. Samardzija is now part of the Cubs' starting rotation.
"Our GM [Jim Hendry] always thought outside the box, and when I told him and our scouting director Tim Wilken about [Kaepernick's] upside, they agreed to take a low-round shot at him," Hughes said. "We thought he might be like Samardzija. A big, strong kid who would develop in time if he concentrated on baseball. It appears he made the right choice."
Hughes touted Kaepernick despite never having seen him pitch.
"I saw him in still pictures only," he said.
Kaepernick had two years of football eligibility left, and he told Hughes he was flattered by the offer.
"He was completely shocked by our draft of him," Hughes said. "I had four phone conversations with him and his dad. He told me he had a vision of playing in the NFL. He also had a commitment to his college and teammates to stay the course that he started on."
Hughes tried to persuade Kaepernick to sign with the Cubs and play a short-season rookie ball schedule before returning to college for his junior year.
"We would have waited for him to finish college and also would have paid for the rest of his education, " Hughes said. "He was very direct and honest about his goal of becoming an NFL quarterback.
"From the people who saw him play at that time, that seemed like a bit of a reach. That shows you what a lot of determination and a little talent can do for a driven guy like Colin. He never asked us about the money or asked to barter a deal."
Kaepernick's route to stardom on the football field wasn't direct. He was drafted in the second round and appeared in only three games in his rookie season last year. He was riding the bench this season until Alex Smith was hurt. The run-pass dual-threat QB took over and kept the job even after Smith got healthy.
He made the record books in the divisional round of the playoffs against Green Bay, rushing for a QB-record 181 yards with two touchdowns, and passing for another 263 yards and two more TDs.
Kaepernick wasn't quite as flashy against the Falcons in the NFC title game, but he still has his team in the Super Bowl.
Hughes stays in contact with Kaepernick, who apparently hasn't let success go to his head.
"I still text Colin from time to time," Hughes said. "He's the same kid he was back then. He hasn't changed a bit. He always gets back to me within a minute or two from the time I text him."
The Chicago Cubs did everything they could to talk Colin Kaepernick into playing baseball in 2009, but the University of Nevada quarterback had a different dream that he wasn't ready to relinquish.